MSU College of Law

MSU Law's Career Readiness Guide

Your job is out there. Take charge of finding it. 

You didn't just come to law school to study law - you came here to practice it. It's easy to for the job search to fall to the bottom of your priority list, but it shouldn't. Be proactive and tenacious in the pursuit of your legal career.

The process can be intimidating, so stop by, give us a call, or get in touch. We're here to support you throughout the process.

  • Assess your skills, network, and identify what you offer to employers.

  • Continuously update your CASE profile, with your contact information, geographic preferences and practice area preferences.

  • Monitor job postings.

  • View the Competencies for Career Success and Developing Your Career Plan webinars.

  • View the Law School Career Roadmap recording and plan your summer and externship experiences.

  • Build your CASE profile

    • Enter your contact information, including a non-MSU email address, phone number, and other basic information
    • Identify your practice area(s) of interest
    • Identify your geographic preference(s)
    • Upload documents to CASE
      • Current resume
      • Additional documents
        • Cover letter
        • Unofficial transcript (available through your StuInfo account)
        • Writing Sample with cover page explaining it
        • Report all legal-related employment to CSO through CASE
  • Meet with CSO for one-on-one advising at least once per year

Update your resume throughout law school to demonstrate knowledge and competencies.

View the Creating Your Legal Resume Webinar.

Follow the CSO’s Resume Checklist.

Resume Sections should appear in the order* below:

*This order should be used by current students and recent graduates. Once you have had at least one postgraduate employment opportunity, the Experience section should appear before the Education section. Bar licensing should be added as soon as it is received.

  • Name and Contact Information
    • Name should be larger and stand out from the other information
      • First name: consistency with proper vs. preferred name
      • Middle name or initial: optional
  • Street address, phone number, email (professional address)
  • LinkedIn profile link (personalized)
  • Education (section should not take up more than 1/3 of page)
    • Reverse chronological order (law school first, then previous degrees)
    • Juris Doctor (not Doctorate)
    • Institution name, institution location (city, state)
    • Degree (be consistent: Juris Doctor & Bachelor of Arts vs. JD & BA)
    • Graduation month/year—not dates attended
    • GPA (not rounded up), rank
    • Academic honors, awards, scholarships
    • Relevant course projects (thesis, substantial research)
    • Extracurricular activities (student orgs, competitions, study abroad)
  • Experience (employer name, title, location, dates)
    • Use reverse chronological order
    • Bullet points, using only ● symbol
    • Begin with action verb (past tense for prior jobs)
    • No personal pronouns (I, my, we)
    • Show relevant, transferable skills (research, writing, advocacy, analysis, project management)
  • Other possible sections: publications, language skills (native, fluent, conversant, basic), community service (include dates), certifications (e.g., CPA, CFA, real estate, engineering), other relevant skills (e.g., technical), interests

DO NOT INCLUDE:

  • Objective statement
  • LSAT score
  • References (do not say “available upon request”)
  • Logos, graphics
  • Information from high school
  • Vague skills (e.g., “good communication skills”)
  • Information related to: race, religion, social security #, nationality, marital status, DOB, TOEFEL, health status (weight, height), children
  • Abbreviations or acronyms
  • Previous salary information

FORMATTING:

  • 1 page only
  • All four margins not larger than 1 inch, but not smaller than .75
  • No pre-set templates
  • Black ink only
  • Font styles (Garamond, Palatino, Times New Roman, Arial, Cambria)
  • Easily readable font size 11 – 12 (use size 14 for headings)
  • Save as PDF with filename: Lastname_Firstname_Resume_Date

DON’T FORGET:

  • Check for grammatical errors and typos.
  • Never submit a resume without another set of eyes looking at it.
  • Consistent bolding, underlining, spacing, dashes (-, –, —), date formats (Nov. 2014 v. 11/2014), etc.
  • Show your attention to detail. No detail is too small!

Continuously improve your social media presence striving to promote your brand.

View the Creating an Effective Profile and Leveraging LinkedIn and Social Media webinars.

Follow the LinkedIn Checklist.

Creating An Eff­ective LinkedIn Profile

NAME: Include your full name, not abbreviations, so others can more easily fi­nd you.

PHOTO: Include a professional headshot (or at minimum a good cell phone-camera picture with a plain background). You are 7xs more likely to be found in searches with a photo. Make sure there is no one else in your photo and the picture is close to your face.

HEADLINE: Create a keyword-focused brand statement describing how you want to be known. Example: First-year law student at Michigan State University College of Law, expected graduation May 2017. You have 120 characters and your headline is visible with your photo. If you already have a profi­le (no matter what level of completion), before you start to update it, turn on activity reporting.* An effective profile is 50% of your success on LinkedIn

SUMMARY: Spend some time on a one-paragraph mini-bio statement. This is not your resume, but a first-person account of what skills, experiences, and interests you have to offer. It is more than an objective statement. You have 2000 characters. Write in short, strong bursts that differentiate you. Use a great opening line. Work with your adviser to further develop your summary statement.

CONTACT INFO: Complete your contact information so that your profile is more accessible. Include Twitter or any professional website you might have here as well.

EXPERIENCE: Complete all of your work and professional experiences with brief descriptions for each role. This should be more than a “cut and paste” of your resume.

EDUCATION: Include all higher education. Include high school if it might help you reach professional connections. TIPS: Don’t forget to customize your profi­le URL and include it on your resume, email signature and business cards to drive traffic to your profile. Look at the LinkedIn profiles of those you admire or other lawyers you aspire to for ideas.

OTHER SECTIONS: Use the other sections to further illustrate your skills and experience and that you are well rounded. Provide relevant information regarding volunteering/community services, professional associations (bar sections, etc.), publications, certifications­fictions, test scores, patents, courses, honors/awards, etc. SKILLS/EXPERTISE: Be comprehensive when selecting skills and expertise. Be sure to include legal research, legal writing, advocacy, etc. *To turn o­ activity reporting, click on your photo in the upper right corner; pick “review” at privacy & settings; and select “turn on/o­ your activity broadcasts.”

JOINING GROUPS, RECOMMENDATIONS, AND ENDORSEMENTS: See your CSO adviser for additional information on other things you can do to leverage your profi­le using these features. Source: students.linkedIn.com

Reach out to alumni for informational interviews and “shadowing” opportunities, attend events at MSU Law, and get to know faculty and fellow students.

View the Networking: Connecting for Career Success Webinar.

Utilize LinkedIn and other social media websites to connect and keep in touch with your network.

Follow the Networking Checklist.

Preparation

  • Seek out opportunities (CSO, Spartan Law Docket, Bar Associations, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Research the event you are attending (attire, time, location, cause)
  • Research the people you are meeting/reaching out to (e.g., alma mater, practice area)
  • Recognize informal vs. formal networking and do informal first
    • Informal: getting to know the person, building rapport
    • Formal: focused, straight to the point, go away with something

In-Person Networking

1) Introduction

  • Place name tag on your right side
  • Give your name plus memorable information
  • Watch your body language: make good eye contact, smile, firm handshake
  • Use formal names unless told otherwise

2) Be Proactive

  • Use open-ended questions to learn more about others
  • Meet many people; make your way around the room
  • Request business cards; quickly jot a note during the break or immediately following the event (where met them, why notable)

3) Food and Beverage Tips

  • Beverage in left hand, keep your right hand free for shaking hands
  • Eat and drink minimally
  • Avoid malodorous foods
  • Avoid sticky or messy foods

Networking Via Email and LinkedIn

Introduction

  • Briefly explain who you are and why you are contacting them
  • Use formal name and title in the greeting

Be Proactive

  • Be clear about what you are asking for (more information, an in-person meeting, an introduction to someone else)
  • Personalize the email. Avoid using an email template.
  • Use spell check. Do not use abbreviations or slang.

Follow Up!

  • Follow up with people you met via email or appropriate social media (LinkedIn) within 24 hours of initial contact
  • Mention something you discussed to jog their memory about you
  • Continue to nurture existing relationships

Follow the Cover Letter Checklist and webinar to draft a tailored cover letter for each application.

Follow the Writing Sample Guide, References Checklist, and Unofficial Transcript Steps.

Overall Formatting

  • 1 page only, margins not larger than 1 inch, but not smaller than .75, left aligned
  • Format to match resume (heading with contact information, same font and font size)
  • Top left of page should have date and address block of the employer
  • Address to a person (NOT to whom it may concern)
    • If unable to find a name of a person, use “Hiring Coordinator”
    • Use a colon after the name in salutation, not a comma: Dear Mr. Smith:
    • Save as a PDF with filename: Lastname_Firstname_Cover Letter_Employer_Date
    • The last thing you want to do is send the wrong letter to an employer
  • If you are emailing the application materials, do NOT copy the cover letter into the body of the email. The email body should simply reference that you have attached a cover letter, resume, and any other requested materials.

Paragraph 1 - Introduction

    • Who you are (but don’t say “my name is”)
      • 1/2/3L/recent graduate
      • Write out Michigan State University College of Law
  • What you are applying for
    • Position and name of the employer
  • Why you want the position
    • Brief interest statement

Paragraph 2 - Body

  • Experiences (employment, law school, volunteer)
    • Do not recite what is on your resume, but expand upon it
    • Focus on demonstrating your skills
  • Match those experiences with what the employer is looking for
    • Tailor to this specific posting as much as possible
    • Use buzzwords from the posting/employer website
  • If this section is too long (15 or more lines), break into two paragraphs

Paragraph 3 - Closing

  • Summarize why you are right for the job
  • State what you’ve enclosed/attached
  • Request interview DON’T FORGET
  • Read cover letter out loud and have someone else read cover letter
  • Check for grammatical errors and typos. Show attention to detail. No detail is too small.

Improve your interviewing skills through structured practice.

Conduct mock interviews with the CSO.

Follow the CSO’s Interviewing Checklist and view the Interviewing webinar.

Immediate First Impression

  • Smile, eye contact, firm handshake
  • Greeting (“Nice to meet you, [Mr./Ms. Last Name]” and “Call me [preferred name]”)
  • Professional attire/grooming (show up as you would dress for the actual interview)
  • Appropriate accessories (no backpacks, jewelry) · Presentation
  • Exude confidence through body language (good posture, no fidgeting, hair out of face)
  • Demonstrate strong communication skills by giving short, articulate, organized answers
  • Demonstrate strong communication skills through appropriate voice projection/tone
  • Avoid verbal tics, such as “um,” “ok,” ”you know,” and “like”
  • Answer difficult questions (e.g., GPA, geographic location, professional weaknesses/ limitations, with composure and confidence by mainly focusing on positive aspects)
  • Convey practicality in answering questions about salary expectations · Response to typical questions o Tell me about yourself.
  • Provide a career-focused bio: 2-3 minutes prepared pitch; possible subjects include:

Where you're from/geographic connections

Undergraduate or other degrees: major & why

Why law school/law?

Reference a few things from resume (not everything)

Something interesting or memorable about yourself

Explain things not evident (e.g., resume gaps, locations, transitions)Match responses to position and employer

Why should we hire you? / What skills add value to the employer?

  • Substantive legal skills (e.g., research/writing, problem-solving, advocacy)
  • Competencies like work ethic, detail oriented, communication, project management
  • Concrete examples of how these skills were developed
  • Communicate how your skillset would fit the employer’s needs
  • Demonstrate interest in the employer’s work through responses to questions

Behavioral interview question: Tell about a time when you had to a) balance multiple tasks, b) manage a project, c) solve a conflict with a person, or d) work on a team.

  • Respond using the STAR organizational framework: Situation, Task , Action, Result
  • Show problem-solving skills

Questions for interviewer(s)

  • Research the employer and prepare 3-4 open-ended questions

Tips for your actual interview

  • Research the employer
  • Bring updated resume, writing sample (be prepared to discuss), and list of references
  • Everyone in the building is evaluating you (be humble, gracious, and polite)